Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Friday, July 30, 2010

This Moment...

A weekly tradition inspired by Soulemama:

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Food Not Lawns: A Review

I just finished reading Food Not Lawns by HC Flores, one of the books on my summer reading list. This book was interesting, but not quite what I had expected.
The author is a permaculturist by trade, and since I am very interested in permaculture, I thought this book would be a perfect fit for me. While Flores does talk quite a bit about gardening, with a focus on permaculture ideals (like building soil, choosing the right plants, forming ecological niches, etc.), the book is actually more of an activists guide. It has many chapters on how to start your own community groups, get people involved and share knowledge; all wonderful endeavors, but I wish I would have read this book when I was 20 and single rather than at 32 when I am busy trying to raise a child and hold down a job. These chapters were of the least interest to me, and although they presented some great ideas, they were not of immediate importance to me. Hopefully as my life frees up a bit, I will have more energy to put into activism and community organization, and can turn back to this book for some ideas.
The gardening section of this book is great for general knowledge. However if you are trying to learn the nitty-gritty of permaculture or gardening, she doesn't get into a lot of detail about most topics. It is more of an introduction, which encourages you to find more information on topics that interest you.
This book does have some great tips in general on how to live more sustainably and lower your impact on the earth. A few of her ideas I just think are completely kooky (like giving up your alarm clock and either waking up whenever you feel like it or getting a rooster to wake you up... OK, great if you have absolutely zero responsibilities in life, or if you want your neighbors to murder you when that rooster crows at 6am). I think I will keep my alarm clock, thanks, but do like her encouragements for getting rid of your lawn and replacing it with a garden, bike-riding, seed-saving, guerilla gardening, and reducing our consumption.
It took me awhile to get through this book. It was full of good information (most of it not new to me, as I am an environmental science teacher in my not-so-spare time), and is well-written. However, the whole "manual" format was not really what I have been in a mood to read during these summer weeks. Worth a read for anyone wanting to start a group in your community or start activist work, or anyone just getting a garden going for the first time. Flores also includes some great information about social (in)justice. Pin It Now!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Toxic Chemical Lobby Video

Here is a quick video that shows some of the dangers of common chemicals found around our households. Watch the video below and then go here to take action and help build stricter policies for these harmful chemicals.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

This Moment...

Inspired by SouleMama:

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Genetically Modified Food App

For those of you who have fancy cell phones, like iphones or droids, the Center for Food Safety has just launched a new app that allows you to check on which foods contain genetically modified ingredients while you are shopping. I don't have such a fancy phone, so I will not be using it, but sounds like a cool idea. To download the free app, or to learn more, go to The Center for Food Safety website. Pin It Now!

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Moment...

Inspired by Soulemama:
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Salvaged Shorts and a Few Summer Additions

I haven't kept up with posting my summer clothes creations for Finn, so here are a few creations from the past few weeks:

Pirate applique shirt: these are super easy. Just find some fabric with a good design that you can cut out. Using fusible webbing, create a decal from your fabric piece, iron onto your shirt, and then hand-stitch around the edges. I have done this for a couple of onsies I gave as baby presents, and they came out pretty cute (photos to come soon!)

Construction pj pants

Salvaged shorts: I found these shorts in a free box on my walk home from the library a while back. They are about the right size for Finn, but had some areas with holes/wear. So I cut some simple shapes out of fabric and hand-stitched them over the worn areas.

I would not have created these out of a good pair of shorts, but since these were headed for the trash anyways, I think the patches make them usable and cute enough.

Dino jammies!
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reused Arts & Crafts

Portland has a great little used arts & crafts store called SCRAP (School and Community Reuse Action Project). I have been going there for a couple of years, but on my most recent trip I was thinking about how wonderful it is and how every town should have at least one of these places.
In short, SCRAP takes donations for unwanted items that can be reused as art materials for craft projects. SCRAP keeps trash out of landfills, provides used art supplies at a low cost to the community, and inspires creativity because what they have is always changing.
I have mentioned SCRAP in a post a while back, but I like the place so much that I thought I would blog about it again!
I love heading into scrap to see what I can find. Some of my staple purchases are used crayons that I can re-melt into new crayons, fabric scraps, and construction paper. But just walking around to see what they have is an inspiration to my inner artist. Plus, I always walk out of there spending under $10.
Does your town have a similar store that you can head to first before purchasing new art supplies? If your town doesn't have a store like this, can you start one? How about starting simple, like a free art box at your child's school where people can drop off unwanted items and take things they may need? Or even an email art-list where folks can post what they have or what they need to exchange within the community. Art is that much more fun to create if you know what you are creating it with was almost thrown into the trash! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garlic Harvest

Today, I harvested a bunch of our garlic. I am quite pleased, as we ended up having to move them from one location to another a couple of months ago, and I wasn't sure how well they would survive the mid-life crisis. But this batch appears to have done well! Now I am looking to my first taste of home-grown garlic in the next day or two! Pin It Now!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back From The Fair...

Finn and I spent the weekend at the Oregon Country Fair, and boy, am I exhausted. It was my first time at the fair, and it was quite an experience! I felt like I had been transported back to the Renaissance; the fairground is located in the woods with trails taking you between all of the vendors, stages and art. It was amazing. The downsides were that it was EXTREMELY hot, especially on the first day, and so I found myself looking for cold beverages more than I enjoyed the scenery. Also, the fair was much more crowded than I had anticipated. That meant that Finn had to stay in a stroller (so I wouldnt lose him in the crowds), so he was a little antsy and I didnt get to stop and enjoy myself as much as I would have otherwise. One of my main reasons for going was to take photographs, but I found that I took only a fraction of what of I had anticipated... I think if I wasn't pushing a stroller through a crowd, I would have had many more photo ops. Nonetheless, it was a lovely experience, the costumes were magical, and the vibe was fantastic. Here are a few fair photos to share with you all!

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Friday, July 9, 2010

This Moment...

Inspired by Soulemama
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blue Vinyl: A Review

Today I showed the movie Blue Vinyl to my Environmental Science class. I have seen this movie quite a few times (evidenced today when I was actually reciting some of the lines in my head) and think it is a great one to show some of the dangers hidden within the plastics industry.
Plastics have come across some harsh criticism recently, and for good cause... in our family, we try to avoid buying/using as much plastic as possible. However, in today's society avoiding plastic still usually means using quite a bit of it.
Blue Vinyl focuses on PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, one of the most "versatile" plastics found on the market. This stuff makes up plumbing parts, shower curtains, children's toys, and home siding, just to name a few. This film focuses around vinyl siding, and how a family who has recently put vinyl siding on their home takes a journey (lead by their grown daughter) to learn about the manufacturing of vinyl, the people harmed along the way, and the quest to find a replacement for this ubiquitous material.
PVC is problematic throughout its entire life cycle. During its manufacture, factory workers can be harmed by exposure to vinyl chloride. Lung and liver cancers are common amongst PVC manufacturers, yet the industry denies any correlation and insists its factories are safe. These factories also spew toxins into the air and the communities surrounding the plant. Air near PVC plants has been found to have concentrations of PVC-related compounds up to 10 times the ambient air levels. Some communities near these factories have been destroyed, as groundwater contamination has made conditions unlivable. Other communities don't realize they are being bombarded with polluted air that is likely to lead to cancer and other illnesses.
During its use, PVC is relatively benign. However, burning PVC can release dioxins, a toxic chemical linked to cancer and reproductive defects. So, in the unlikely event of a house fire, the home covered with vinyl siding is going to turn into a monster that contaminates the neighborhood with poisonous chemicals. At the end of its life, PVC has no good home. If it is taken to a landfill, it will just sit there, not decomposing, as its molecular structure is such that it is not biodegradable. If it is incinerated, it releases toxins, like dioxins, that poison the surrounding community. And, recycling is difficult and not economically profitable. So, once used, PVC just becomes a burden to our communities.
Blue Vinyl is a film that is definitely worth watching. Marketed as a "toxic comedy" it actually is pretty funny, and gets up close and personal with the PVC industry as well as some of the communities harmed by its production.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Learn an Herb: Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm has been springing up and thriving everywhere in my yard this year. I know that many would consider it to be a "weed", but it smells delightful and has many reported uses (none of which I have yet tried!)
Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family, but it smells lemony and not at all minty. It is reported to have calming properties, decreasing anxiety and promoting sleep. It can also help reduce indigestion. A cup of lemon balm tea after dinner sounds like a perfect idea!
Lemon balm also has antibacterial properties and can inhibit bacteria and viruses. It can be used topically for treatment of eczema and cold sores, and a fresh leaf can be placed over bug bites. It also helps to repel pesky insects like mosquitoes!
I have also found some evidence that links use of lemon balm to improvements in asthma and bronchitis. Additionally, lemon balm can be a great culinary addition.
This herb is not recommended for medicinal use during pregnancy (culinary use is fine). Pin It Now!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Legwarmers In July

So, a few months ago I found some yarn that I loved and decided it would be perfect to make myself a pair of legwarmers. Yes, it was May already, but I figured with all of the festivals I was going to this summer, and camping out, they would surely come in handy. Plus, once the fall weather set in, I would already have some legwarmers to sport.
About 3/4 of the way through the first legwarmer, I realized my skein of yard was not going to be enough for both legwarmers. So, I headed back to the yarn shop. Unfortunately, they were out of the yarn I needed, and since it was a "winter" yarn, they would not be getting any in until the fall, if ever. Yikes! I rushed home and frantically searched online until I found a company that would ship me this Swedish wool.
The second skein came, and although is was clearly the same yarn, it had clearly NOT been dyed at the same time as my other skein. The shades were way off, and the new skein had much darker, richer colors. But as I had already spent weeks making one legwarmer, how could I leave it mate-less? So, last week, I finally finished my second legwarmer. They are cute, but they are not quite a perfect match. My husband said that's what I get for making legwarmers in July!
So, lesson learned: always buy the yarn that you need for a project at the same time at the same place. Otherwise you may spend lots of time, energy, and money having something that is not exactly up to your expectations. At least these legwarmers have a good story behind them, and maybe if I stand with my legs spread far apart, no one will notice? Pin It Now!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Water Wars: A Review

Water is essential for life; without water there can be no life. Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution & Profit by Vandana Shiva is a book that addresses the global water crisis that we are all a part of. Vandana Shiva, if you have never heard of her, is a wonderful Indian activist that is knowledgeable in so many aspects of the environment and politics, and so I always appreciate anything she has to say.
This book was published in 2002, so it is not exactly up-to-the-moment on all of the current water crises/happenings across the globe. However, all of the issues that she addresses are still issues today, and so I feel like this book is still an informative read even eight years later.
Water Wars addresses water rights and how different cultures have traditionally and currently dealt with owning the rights to water. It discusses water privatization, which is happening more and more in developing countries and how privatization takes away water from those who need it most. Water is a common resource, something that belongs to everyone and something that everyone needs. Allowing corporations to decide who gets water, and at what cost, is the demise of globalization.
Water Wars also addresses how climate change will affect water distribution and how greenhouse gasses released by developed countries will likely change water supplies for those in developing countries who have not contributed to global warming. Shiva talks about how dams disrupt water flow, ecosystems, and human life. Installation of large dams displaces a huge number of people; usually these people are poor and often indigenous, and they lose their lands and their livelihoods so that the already-rich and the large corporations can benefit through "progress". Shiva also addresses how water is so closely tied in with agriculture. During the green revolution, high yielding strains of crops were distributed throughout the world. These crops do yield more, but also depend heavily on fertilizer inputs (which are poisoning water, land and communities) and high water inputs. Traditional crops use much less water, and this shift towards these high yielding crops is essentially depleting water supplies across the globe, drying up wells and destroying lives.
This is a quick read that touches on many aspects of the world's water problems. Although I didn't come away from this book feeling quite as moved as after watching the movie FLOW, I still found it to be informative and packed full of good facts.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

This Moment....

Inspired by Soulemama
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Learn an Herb: Bee Balm

At our little urban house in Portland, Oregon, we are slowly trying to turn our yard into a permaculture-based system. As we chose new plants to bring into our garden, we want to make sure that they are edible or serve some other useful purpose. As I am starting to learn, many herbs are edible, useful for home health remedies, attract beneficial insects and are beautiful to look at. However, I don't know nearly as many herbs as I should, or as I want to anyways, and as the summer progresses I hope to learn more and more useful herbs (and how to use them!).
One of my favorites in our garden is bee balm (monarda didyma). You can use all of the above-ground parts of this plant. Bee balm tea is good for colds, headaches, gastric problems, low fevers, sore throats, nausea, PMS, and insomnia. Externally, bee balm can help treat acne and infections. Plus, as you could probably guess from the name, our friends the bees love this plant and I think it is absolutely gorgeous! Pin It Now!